Old B.C. grizzly bears with worn-down teeth can pose risk for human conflict | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Old B.C. grizzly bears with worn-down teeth can pose risk for human conflict

Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons/Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith
February 01, 2021 - 6:00 AM

A UBC Okanagan researcher says older grizzly bears can come into conflict with humans as they search for easier food sources when their teeth become worn.

Clayton Lamb, a UBCO postdoctoral researcher who studies grizzly bears across B.C., said the oldest bear he’s studied reached 32 years old, but it’s uncommon for them to reach that age.

Once the bears reach their mid-20s, their teeth often become worn down to nubs and they may begin to search for easier food sources, leading them to have conflicts with humans, he said.

“Certainly above 30 is in the upper end of how old these bears live," he said. “If you’re making a living chewing on animal bone compared to say, eating fish or berries, the rate (of tooth wear) would be different, but past the mid-20s they get to the point where they’re teeth get worn down and become almost completely flat with the gums. We never really know what the bears are feeling, but in those cases with the large canines, you can see the exposed nerve endings on every tooth and just thinking from a human perspective, even if we have a slightly exposed nerve ending, we’re using Sensodyne,” he said.

READ MORE: How Kelowna got its name from 'grizzly bear', despite a distinct lack of grizzlies around

An exposed nerve could be quite uncomfortable for the bear, he said.

“I’ve caught a male here in southeast B.C. and the teeth were completely gone, it was just gums left."

With the older animals, they sometimes end up in conflicts with people as they search for easier food sources since they’re no longer able to eat their regular diet, he said.

About 450 B.C. grizzly bears have been collared and the oldest ones recorded were 31, a female found in the Flathead Valley, and 32-year-old male found on the coast. Both are dead, but there’s currently a large male in the East Kootenays that is 28 years old, Lamb said.

Grizzlies tend to occupy the coastal areas and the Kootenays in B.C. but they are being studied near Big White, Vernon and the Granby areas, he said.

Recently, a grizzly bear was euthanized in Yellowstone region in Wyoming after it preyed on cattle. At 34 years old, it was the oldest on the record in the region.

READ MORE: Grizzly, 34, euthanized, found to be Yellowstone region's known oldest

Grizzly bears are not as abundant or widely distributed as black bears and are generally absent from Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and the Central Interior. Other populations are threatened and are considered a “species at risk” by both the provincial and federal governments, according to WildsafeB.C.

The Conservation Officer Service receives approximately 400 to 500 calls per year regarding grizzly bears, according to WildSafeB.C.

Bears are most active from April to November and conflicts can increase when natural food sources are reduced or unnatural attractants are readily accessible.

- With files from The Canadian Press


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